Tuesday, October 15, 2013

“PLANNING TOGETHER” IS NOT THAT EASY

[This article presents the challenges faced by practicing teachers in the course of developing lessons in Physics from the point of view of a member of the study group.]

Ma’am, baka pwedeng bigyan n’yo na lang kami ng lesson plan at iexecute na lang namin?” (Ma’am, can you just give us a prepared lesson plan and then we will just execute it?) One teacher of our lesson study group in Physics asked during the initial planning of the lesson. What made the teacher to ask this question?
Lesson study is about planning together to develop, implement, and improve a research lesson. “Planning together” is not something new to teachers. They plan on activities in school such as Science Fairs and school foundation day celebration but “planning together to come up with a lesson” is something unusual to them. Teachers are used to prepare their own lesson plans and implement them as they see fit. In a school, where there may be five or more physics teachers, it is possible that these teachers differ in the way they teach the same topic. Hence, asking teachers to plan a lesson together faces a lot of challenges.
Finding time for planning the lesson was a challenge. In our lesson study group, the teachers had to meet around lunchtime to plan the lesson because they have classes in the afternoon. Requesting them to come at this time was sometimes inconvenient for them because they had personal matters to attend to. That was the reason why a teacher asked for a prepared lesson plan to execute instead of planning together to prepare a new one.
Finding the right activity for the lesson was a challenge. Teachers acknowledge that letting the students do an activity is a good practice. During the planning of the lesson, the teachers brought activities they used in the previous school year. As they presented the activities, they were asked some questions: 1) Will the activities help your students to discover the concept/s you want them to know? 2) Will the students be able to discover the concept on their own? 3) What skills will be developed through the activity? 4) Do you have the materials (or enough materials) needed for the activity? These questions were asked for teachers to realize that it was not enough that students perform an activity for the sake of doing an activity. Teachers had to evaluate the activity they were using. If the activity does not meet the objectives of the lesson, they have to select a more appropriate one or make some revisions. Moreover, the teachers were asked to tryout the activity. There were situations during the planning that they had to replace the activity or some materials because the activity or material itself was not working. As a result, it took several meetings just to come up with an activity. Thus, teachers would say, “Hindi pala ganito kadali gumawa ng activity (It is not so easy to come up with an activity).”
Finding the appropriate strategy for a lesson was a challenge. The usual sequence followed by the teacher in teaching a science lesson is as follows: motivation, presentation of the concept (including equation), performing the activity (if there is an activity), guided solving of a sample problem, individual or group problem solving, assessment, and homework. However, the formulated goal for the lesson study was “To develop and nurture self-directed learners who have enduring understanding of science concepts that can be applied in real-life situations.” Their usual way of teaching would not work to attain this goal because if the teachers would simply give the concepts and equations, then the students would become passive learners. Thus, there is a need for the teacher to shift from being the source of information to a facilitator of learning. They should guide their students to discover the concepts on their own. To do this, the teachers have to think of the questions they would ask to elicit thinking among the students as well as the possible answers the students might give. Writing these in their lesson plan would allow the teachers to anticipate different scenarios that might happen during the class discussion. Planning the lesson this way involves detailed and focused discussion and by itself a challenge to a teacher who is used to deciding by herself or himself on how to go about the lesson.

Indeed, planning together is not that easy. Yes, it takes time to plan, choose an activity, and find an appropriate teaching strategy. But to see the students enjoying the activity, asking questions, and participating in class discussions are enough rewards for the challenges faced. Going back to the teacher who asked for a prepared lesson plan to execute, she no longer asked this question in the succeeding cycles of planning. She became more participative in the discussions and even implemented two lessons made by the study group. Clearly, by embracing the challenges of doing a lesson study paved the way for her professional development. The experience with lesson study embodies this quote by Henry Ford: “Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.”

By May R. Chavez
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